Study: Microsoft Dominates In Web Services Space

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Microsoft dominates in the emerging Web services market, a trend that is only likely to continue as .NET commands as ever-greater share of developer mind space, according to the spring 2004 Web Services Development Survey by Evans Data.

Microsoft Windows operating systems rule both as Web services development workstation platforms, and as target application platforms. More than 80 percent of respondents said they do most development work on Windows, and a similar percentage target Windows machines to run their applications.

Although over the next 12 months the proportion of development shops planning to use Linux as their primary operating system will almost double, the survey said this will "barely make a dent in Windows' overwhelming dominance in this space."

Developers were evenly divided between J2EE and .NET, but seven out of ten respondents said that support of multiple operating systems is more important than support for multiple languages. This indicates a "significant nod" to the role of JVM, according to the authors of the study. Although Microsoft has positioned CLR as an environment that can run a large range of languages, relatively few respondents said they used CLR for languages other than C#.

Confusion abounds in the area of standards, the survey found. Beyond the very basic Web services standards such as XML, XML Schema, and SOAP, most developers were unfamiliar with other standards, including WSDL and UDDI, two standards at the core of Web services. Only 50 percent of respondents had heard of WSDL, for example, and since WSDL is arguably the most important Web services standard, "this is an unwelcome result," concluded the authors of the report. Developers were evenly divided on whether standards confusion could hurt their Web services efforts.

"It's hard to keep track, even for people who follow this space," said Dr. Colin Adam, one of the authors of the study. "It's understandable, as the new standards are only recently published, and a lot of tools are lagging in support of them."

Proposing Web services to solve integration or other enterprise business or technical challenges is not a slam-dunk. Three out of four respondents said they have met with resistance when suggesting Web services applications as solutions to their enterprises. There are two general reasons for the resistance, according to the survey: cost and a lack of understanding of what Web services are and what they can accomplish.

Most developers plan to use what authors of the study called "an old standby" for online security. More than 70 percent of respondents expect to use SSL for Web services interactions. Approximately a third expect to use XML Encryption, followed by XML Digital Signatures.

"SSL was originally designed for business-to-consumer transactions on the Internet," said Joe McKendrick, an analyst with Evans Data. "However, SSL is gaining a new role, as 70 percent of respondents expect to use the security mechanism for Web services interactions as well."

The problem, said McKendrick, is that SSL does not provide the audit trail that is required for most B2B transactions. "The use of digital signatures provides that audit trail, and 79 percent of developers using digital signatures are using it in conjunction with SSL," he said. In a related point, about 27 percent of respondents expect to use WS-Security as it becomes available in vendor's products.

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